Infrastructure year is finally here! The passage of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will provide the Capital Region from Baltimore to Richmond with $18.25 billion over the next five years for investments in our transportation system, and more if we successfully compete for the $125 billion in nationwide discretionary grants USDOT will control.
In my previous post, I outlined 5 steps for the region to maximize our collective benefit from the large infusion of federal funding and speed up implementation of the Blueprint for Regional Mobility. The essential first step is ensuring our capital investment programs comprise projects that are “shovel worthy” – those that have strong returns on their investment, meet the national goals as articulated by Secretary Buttigieg, have begun initial engineering and design, and are moving toward construction. But the region should also identify worthy “stretch” projects – in other words, “shovel worthy” projects that are not yet viable for federal construction grants but could be competitive in the next five years with some initial plans, project specifications, and preliminary engineering reports.
Let’s explore some of the region’s “shovel worthy” projects that should be slam dunks and enter construction due to BIL’s passage, as well as some worthy “stretch” projects that need a little more TLC from our leaders to get moving.
Slam Dunk “Shovel Worthy” Projects
1. Frederick Douglass Tunnel – Replacement for the Civil War-era rail tunnel between Baltimore and Washington, DC, a rail chokepoint and the second-highest priority project for Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor
2. Expanded American Legion Bridge – The region’s #1 roadway congestion point that wreaks economic havoc when it shuts down and has been in the queue for decades
3. Purple Line Light Rail – The Washington area’s first circumferential, inter-suburban light rail project that will connect Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland
10. 40-mile Regional Fall Line Trail – This $300 million regional trail will connect nine jurisdictions in Central Virginia, including Richmond, to healthy amenities and new commuting options
Worthy “Stretch” Projects
The BIL opens the door to new possibilities and should raise our collective expectations about what we can achieve in the near-term. The following projects are not yet ready to be competitive for construction dollars over the next five years, but with some attention and preliminary work, our transportation leaders could turn these “stretch” projects into “shovel worthy” ones.
A quick caveat: this list does not include all of the region’s “shovel worthy” projects, and all of these projects may not be feasible within the next five years. However, our elected officials across the region have the power — in concert with business, public sector, and community leaders – to determine our collective priorities and to work collaboratively and rise to the opportunity provided by the BIL to deliver a truly transformed, more connected, and more competitive transportation system in the next decade. Let’s get to work!